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23rd Feb 2019

Focus

Centre-right wins most EP seats, but anti-establishment parties score well

  • EU elections have brought in over a 100 MEPs from protest parties (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

The centre-right European People's Party (EPP) won the most European Parliament seats, results on Tuesday (28 May - 14:08 CEST) showed, but across Europe mainstream parties lost out to anti-establishment parties, with the biggest upset in France.

European Parliament projections gave the EPP 214 of the 751 seats, followed by the centre-left on 191 and the Liberals on 64.

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The Greens were on 52, the far-left on 45, the anti-federalist ECR on 46, the eurosceptic EFD on 38, non-attached on 41. There are 60 MEPs from new parties.

But with negotiations still to take place about where the newcomers will sit and whether the eurosceptics or far-right will form a coherent political group in the EP, it could be weeks before the political foundations of the EU are settled.

Several of the groups – including the Liberals and the until-now British Conservative-dominated ECR – predict significant gains for their groups by the end of negotiations in late June.

The size and shape of the political groups affect the amount of money they are allocated, speaking times and ultimately the politics behind the voting in of the next European Commission President, who needs the support of over half all MEPs.

While politicians from the largest political groups noted that the pro-European parties still remained by far in the majority, the results in several member states showed swathes of voters either voting for outright eurosceptic parties or voting for parties that called for change.

France saw the biggest political earthquake. Voters in the founding EU member put the far-right National Front in the lead, beating the governing Socialists into third place.

Across the Channel in the UK, it was Ukip, the anti-EU party, which was celebrating after having scooped the most votes. Leader Nigel Farage noted that his party, previously seen as an "insurgent", had never topped the polls before.

In Denmark, the upset came via the anti-immigrant Danish People's Party which emerged top beating the Socialist party of Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

Far-right parties came third in Austria, Greece and Hungary. And in Germany, the anti-euro AfD came from nowhere – it was only established last year – to gain seven percent.

In Italy, the anti-establishment Five Star movement, headed up by former comedian Beppe Grillo came in second place. The party has campaigned on taking Italy out of the Euro and giving Italians back their "monetary, economic and cultural sovereignty".

The far-left Syriza party in Greece capitalised on the country's dire economic circumstances and high unemployment to make the call for change. Party leader Alexis Tsipras said we have a "political agenda that cannot be ignored" in the EP.

In the Netherlands, the far-right PVV did worse than anticipated coming in third, but the vote saw the two top parties only manage some 15 percent.

In Spain, anti-austerity party Podemos, founded earlier this year, scooped eight percent.

Meanwhile, in Ireland, the lion share of the vote when to politicians running on an independent ticket. An unprecedented three seats went to leftist Sinn Fein, campaigning against austerity measures.

Politicians interpreted the results differently.

While the EPP's Joseph Daul hailed his group's win, Socialist Martin Schulz noted that the EPP had lost over 60 seats since the last EU vote in 2009.

Liberal leader Guy Verhofstadt noted that in the parliament "two-thirds are people who want to go forward with integration".

Struan Stevenson, from the anti-federalist ECR, said "We are going to see big changes in the parliament" while UKIP's Farage said "integration is no longer inevitable".

In the next few days, most of the attention is set to focus on parties' efforts to form a majority behind a commission president candidate.

Before the elections, all the political groups agreed that the party that gains the most votes should have the first shot at trying to get both the support of member states and the EP – putting Jean-Claude Juncker, a former Luxembourg PM, in line for the first attempt.

Opinion

European democracy beyond the elections

Eurosceptics may have appropriated the democracy discourse, but their view that national isolation is the way to recover accountability is deeply flawed.

EU leaders digest anti-establishment vote

EU leaders meeting in Brussels on Tuesday are still digesting the result of EU elections, which saw anti-establishment parties winning in Britain, France, Belgium, Greece and Denmark.

Opinion

EP elections: A Union divided

What many observers believed to be the most important European elections since the introduction of direct universal suffrage in 1979 has ended up confirming what many have feared: Europe is a divided continent.

New EP will struggle to find majorities

The new European Parliament will need to work harder to find majorities while the biggest change following the EU vote is in the member states themselves.

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